What's Up With Walmart? 5 Things Afoot at the Big Box King

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It seems like Walmart has been making more headlines than mega discount warehouse stores tend to, and for the most part, the stories have been ones the Walton family would likely just as soon have kept buried in the back pages. Ever a lightning rod for the ire of environmentalists, small retail shop owners, the hipster set and more, these days the company is drawing attention and criticism from a decidedly more national audience. Perhaps the paradigm of American consumerism is shifting, or perhaps Walmart has simply pulled a few boneheaded moves recently.

5 Walmart Starts the Holiday Season Extra Early

This year Walmart just couldn’t wait for the start of the holiday shopping season. These days, many stores have begun to offer steep discounts on Thanksgiving Day itself; Walmart decided that even that lead time was insufficient, so they’re going to start offering discounts a full week before the once vaunted Black Friday shopping frenzy following the holiday. In addition to undercutting the competition by opening sales days ahead of the usual schedule, they are also offering a 32” flat screen TV for less than $100.

4 It Has Been a Bad Year for Profits

Overall, 2013 has already been a slow year for the big box giant. The end of the payroll tax cut and delayed income tax rebates saw many of the store’s regular customers keeping their cash in their pockets. Walmart is also anticipating a worse-than-average holiday shopping season, which is the major motivator for its early sales and wild price reductions. The company saw modest declines in profits during every quarter of the year so far, when compared to past performance.

3 Walmart Unlawfully Cracked Down on Strikers and Protestors

Add to profit declines the threat of major legal action taken by the National Labor Relations Board and you have one poor year for Walmart indeed. Allegedly, the company has routinely disciplined or even fired employees partaking in lawful strikes and protests in many states, and has issued threats against workers who considered doing so in the future. If these allegations are substantiated, then Walmart is breaking plural laws and is headed for court or for some major settlements.

2 Walmart Is Having a Food Drive for Its Own Employees

While perhaps one way for a company to help employees struggling in poverty would be to raise their wages, another approach is to ask for donations of food for the workers. A Cleveland area Walmart went with the latter approach and set up bins for food donations in the store with signs explaining the goods were “So associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.” Not surprisingly, the move—while perhaps well-intended though blisteringly myopic—is drawing ridicule and scorn from far and wide.

1 Walmart Is Still the World’s Biggest Retailer

Even despite all that ails Walmart this year, let’s not forget that it remains the world’s biggest retail company, and one of the most profitable corporations on the planet. The company employs well over two million people and makes billions upon billions of dollars every quarter. One year of one percent profit declines and some bad press is not going to stop this titan of consumption.

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